Awake windows for babies and toddlers

Published on: June 08, 2021

  As a nurse, Ingrid shares the guidelines for how long a baby or toddler should spend awake or asleep.

By Ingrid Hanifen

Do you know that the most common mistake parents make with their baby’s sleep is keeping the baby up for too long? As parents and caregivers, we assume that a baby will sleep when tired, and it would be a lot easier if they did.  Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. An important term to keep in mind is “wakeful windows” or “awake windows.” This is the amount of time a baby can be awake before they need to go back to sleep. Some babies show you that they are getting tired by giving you sleep cues; rubbing their eyes, yawning, not making eye contact, or getting fussy are ways of showing you that they are tired and need to sleep. Other babies show no sleep signs, so it appears as though they just don’t need sleep, but don’t be fooled – they do! So, how long can the average baby be awake before their next nap or bedtime? Here’s a chart to show the average wakeful windows based on age:


It’s important to note that the awake times are shorter in the morning and get longer throughout the day. It’s also important to watch the clock and your baby. Make a note of what time your baby is awake, but also watch them for sleep cues. Again, each baby is a unique individual, and they may need more or less time awake than others. By noting the time they woke up as well as how they are acting while awake, you can determine when the best time for a nap and bedtime is going to be. Dr. Marc Weissbluth, author of “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child,” uses this analogy for getting the timing right for bedtime and naps: “When a parent catches their baby’s wave of drowsiness, it’s a peaceful ride into a deep sleep. But if the wave crashes, the baby becomes overtired and may fuss for 15 minutes or more when she’s put down.” Wakeful windows and sleep cues can help you catch your baby’s perfect wave of drowsiness so that naps and bedtimes become easier and more predictable. Try observing your baby for a couple of days and make notes of when they show sleep cues and the timing of wake-ups and naps to see if you can determine their unique wakeful window.


Weissbluth, Marc. (1987). Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child: A step-by-step program for a good night’s sleep / Marc Weissbluth, M.D.- 2015 Ballantine Books, Fourth edition.

Photos from Canva

About the Author

Ingrid Hanifen is a mother to 2 boys and lives in Bangkok. She is a nurse and has been helping tired families get more sleep since 2017 when she started Best Rest Families, LLC. For more information, please visit to see if sleep coaching is right for your family.

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